When the Georgia Dome first joined the Monster Energy Supercross circuit back in 1993, it marked a respite from a decade of cold, muddy (and even snowy!) Atlanta supercrosses back at the open-air Fulton County Stadium. (However, as bad as the weather was, Fulton County Stadium’s 1990 race is the best SX race of all time, in my personal opinion.)
The dome would add much more than climate control to the February supercross setting. Through the decades, the ATLSX would become the largest and most popular event of the season. Massive growth of the sport in the Southeast, including a huge group of native pros or riders that moved to the area, and could thus call this a home race, helped. Also, Atlanta became a winter haven for any dirt bike fan within a weekend drive of the dome. Those stands were packed not just with Georgia residents, but fans from the Carolinas, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia and more, all getting their first road-trip shot of the season to watch a race in person. It didn’t hurt that the DMXS Radio show blew up the annual homecoming with a big party and big promotion. Add it all up, and the Georgia Dome began hosting the largest crowds in the history of the sport. Right on.
Don’t worry, although the stadium is going away, the race is not, it’s just moving right next door to a new building. But it seems right to give the Georgia Dome a proper sendoff by looking back at some of its best supercross moments. Cue The List!
10. Beginning and Ending: The first Georgia Dome SX came in 1993, and it was no surprise that Damon Bradshaw won. Damon, of North Carolina, also won what had become his home race in 1991 and 1992 at the old stadium. But Bradshaw’s win looks strange, now. Rookie Jeremy McGrath shocked the world with a four-race winning streak early in the ’93 season, but Bradshaw’s ATL win made it appear the series was getting back to normal, with Bradshaw about to retake his spot atop the pecking order. Instead, it would end up as the last supercross win of Bradshaw’s career.
9. Overhead Cam: McGrath kept dominating for years, and had five-straight wins in 1995 as the series headed for Atlanta. At the time, six-straight would have been an all-time record. So this event was hyped up, and Showtime obliged by agreeing to wear a helmet cam in the main event (can you imagine how rudimentary that thing must have been with 1995 technology?). That camera got a great shot of McGrath and Mike Craig colliding on a jump, and McGrath crashing. Mike LaRocco won the race to end MC’s streak, and the helmet cam wouldn’t appear on another factory rider for a long, long time.
8. First Timers: The early stages of 250SX East Region opened the door for many first-time main event winners, including Zach Osborne this year, as well as Wil Hahn, Josh Grant, and even Ricky Carmichael. While Carmichael and Grant were relative newcomers when they grabbed SX win number one, Hahn had been at it seemingly forever, and Osborne forever and a half. But whether the win represented a coming of age or the culmination of a long journey, it was sweet to do it in front of smart fans who understood how big it was.
Also of note from the 250 class: Damon Huffman won two 125SX West titles in dominant fashion, and was expected to win many, many races in the big class. Things only came together for him once, though, when he holeshot and led every lap of Atlanta in 1997. Unfortunately, he hurt his leg right after this and wasn’t able to capitalize on the momentum.
7. First in the First: Those first career wins above were impressive, but how about a rider winning his first career SX in the very first career SX race he raced? It actually happened twice in the Georgia Dome, in back-to-back years. Ryan Dungey won his first AMA SX in 2007, and Trey Canard did the same in 2008. They could have retired right then, undefeated forever!
6. Retro Night: James Stewart’s 2013 season started with much hype based on his switch to Suzuki (which worked well for him as soon as he jumped on it in the 2012 Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship), but he tore his ACL early in the year. James kept racing, though, and the knee got stronger, and in Atlanta, it was strong enough for him to hold off Ryan Villopoto the whole way and notch his first win of the season. Stewart, of Florida, got some local love from the crowd—a recurring theme through the history of this event.
5. Retro Night 2: Chad Reed was super-fast early in 2014 on his TwoTwo Motorsports Kawasaki, but he got hurt early in the season. He seemed ready at the start of 2015, but the speed he had the previous year wasn’t quite there. He still had experience, though, and that season, the year of the Atlanta I/Atlanta II double-header weekends, he simply made it happen. Reed got the early lead, and Ryan Dungey couldn’t get close enough to challenge him by the checkers. This currently stands as Reed’s last SX win.
4. Home Cooking: Ezra Lusk was one of the fastest riders of his generation, and has 18 premier class SX wins to show for it. Unfortunately, the Georgia native never got one of those wins at the Georgia Dome, although that might be a good thing because the fans would have blown the roof of the place, and we’d be back to the Fulton County Stadium frost.
Other locals, like Matt Walker, came close (Walker led most of a 250 race once, but got edged late by Grant Langston) but the closest to a local victory came in 2008, when Davi Millsaps, of the famous Cairo, Georgia, moto town on the Florida/Georgia line, took his first career 450SX win. Davi was actually born and raised in central Florida, but we know how moto works: victories within the general region you’re from count as hometown wins!
3. Fuel to the Fire: More notable for what happened off the track than on it. The morning of the race, the AMA announced Ricky Carmichael would be penalized 25 points because his bike failed a fuel test earlier in the season. RC held a press conference at the Suzuki rig before practice, saying he’d answer all questions about this when the race was over. Then he went out and won it, but instead of answering questions, he forced the sanctioning bodies to answer some of their own. In the post-race presser, RC pretty much said he was going to quit the rest of the supercross season. A few days later, his team manager Roger DeCoster figured out that the FIM and AMA fuel rules didn’t jive, and Suzuki managed to tuck into the gray area and get the points back. RC’s manhandling of the rule makers at the post-race presser—and getting his points back—still gets talked about today.
2. Last Lap: Marvin Musquin simply had the 2016 Atlanta supercross in his grasp, until he made a bobble while trying to lap Stewart, who was just making his return to racing from a concussion. The bobble allowed Ryan Dungey to sneak into the lead with half of a lap to go. The fans were going crazy on all that drama.
1. Last Lap of all Last Laps: Maybe the wildest, craziest last lap in the history of the sport. In 2011, Stewart and Reed battled the whole way, with Stewart pulling off a pass with a lap to go to get the lead. Then Reed cut way, way inside in a corner, leaving James nowhere to go, and the two hit the ground in a heap. In a generation of Reed/Stew battles, this was as crazy as it gets! Ryan Villopoto and Ryan Dungey sneaked by to take the top spots on the final lap, but Reed and Stew kept on battling after they got up with Reed making a daring last-corner pass to get the podium spot.
Sheer insanity, people. Georgia Dome, it’s been good.